BMW R1200GSA vs Moto Guzzi Stelvio NTX

Sunday, 21 August 2016

Karijini. What a stunning place. 

We should have stayed here a week.


We got a little taste of the country around here on the way into Tom Price yesterday, and it's not at all what I had imagined. I was expecting wide, flat, boring, desert type country, but it was really interesting with many standout natural features on the sides of the road. The colours were what was most noticeable though. Because of the big rains they've had through here there is a lot of greenery, and this contrasts with the red of the earth to create absolutely stunning vistas.

As our booked tour was a no go, we fired the bikes up and rode off toward Karijini. It was about 100 k to the Visitor's Centre via the bitumen road. We'd been advised to avoid the gravel roads as they were not in good condition. Unfortunately this limits us to about a third of the places we wanted to see.

Our first stop was a little surreal. We saw one of those Photo Opportunity signs off to the left, so pulled in for a look. It was a short ride up some gravel to the top of a small hill, so off we went.

Andrew has no issue tackling dirt roads on his full dress Harley.

At the top there was a reasonable view, but we also found this...

There were numerous piles of rocks around the parking area, and they were memorials to people, from all over the world. It was a little strange to say the least.

Back on the road...

This whole area is basically a huge iron ore mine with Rio Tinto being one of the major players. Their vehicles are pretty much everywhere you go. As we trundled down the road there was a train running on a track parallel to us. We stopped at a rail crossing and waited for it to pass. It was big, with two locomotives, pulling, wait for it, two hundred iron ore cars. Yes, two hundred! I counted them.

My whip the camera out of the tank bag 
in a hurry and take a photo shot.

Here's a better shot compliments of Rio Tinto.

These trains can be more than two kilometres long and weight more than 35,000 tonnes.

The train got me thinking. How much does it cost to run a mining company? We always hear about how much profit they make, but I wonder what percentage of their turnover that profit is? This one train is only a minuscule portion of their investment in mining, and I'm guessing a train isn't cheap. I'm not a fan of ripping our planet apart so people can make big bucks, but I don't know how we would survive without these guys putting all this money into our economy.

We reached the entrance gate to Karijini, paid for our passes, and made our way to our first stop. Joffre Falls.

To visit some of the gorges here it's a three hour return hike. As you can see by the photos, Andrew and I aren't the fittest of specimens, and wearing motorcycle gear and boots meant a three hour hike was a very unlikely scenario. We took the economy option and looked around from the top of Joffre instead.

The old guys tackled the steps to the lookout,
but not to the bottom of the gorge. 

Next stop was the Visitor's centre to find out a bit about the park and what we could access on the bikes. From Joffre it was only about 30 ks via a dirt road we had been advised to avoid, so it was back on the bitumen for a 70 km ride.

The Visitor's Centre turned out to be worth a look and was full of information relating to the park as well as a little art work.

Here's a better photo of one of the
termite mounds (ant's nests). 

This is a close up. 

They really are just like a bloody big rock.

From there we hit Dale's Gorge.

Dale's is a long gorge with feature points dotted along it. Circular Pool was first on the list.

Followed by Fortescue Falls.

After a chat with the Park Manger I was convinced that we needed to visit the bottom of this gorge. It was time to put my buggered old knees to the test. Time to go down.

Once again Andrew decided that I was being silly, left me to my foolhardiness, and made his way back to the camp for an afternoon siesta.

Fortescue Falls was magnificent. The climb down wasn't too harsh on the old body and my rest stops gave me the opportunity to snap off a few photos.

At the bottom I met up with the Park Ranger again (Why does a voice inside my head say Mr Matt Hammond every time I type that. Lovers of the Aussies TV show Skippy will understand). He pointed out a small track off the side and told me that it lead to Fern Pool and I should go and take a look. Apparently the local owners had requested that this not be opened up to the public at all, until just recently. They have now okayed access, but don't want it put on any of the park maps.

Off I went. 

Fern Pool is simply beautiful. 

Apparently the water is warm, and the water from the waterfall is even warmer. Not a bad little spot at all.

Then I heard some noise above me. Looking up I saw some very odd looking fruit in the trees.

Funny looking fruit. What is it? 

Um, not fruit, but fruit bats. AWESOME! 

I am Batman!

How cute are these little guys? 

Animal hang gliding. 

This little guy was playing
Day time. Night time.
(A few of my friends will understand this). 

On my way back I bumped into a French girl we had been talking to at the Visitor's Centre. In a bit of a difficult conversation I told her about Fern Pool and the fruit bats. Eventually I think she got it and said "Ah, Batman". I laughed and said "No. Bat Bat!". I last saw her and her friends heading down the track to Fern Pool.

Now for the challenge, the climb back up to the top. I go there, but I must admit I had a few little rests along the way, and was puffing a bit. When I got to the top I drained my water bottle and devoured an apple I had in my tank bag. I think it was the best apple I'd ever eaten.

I made my way back to the Visitor's Centre and bought another bottle of water. While I was there I asked more people about the dirt road back toward Joffre Falls, and got the same answer. That's four seperate people who have told me to avoid the road, especially on a bike. The woman at the Centre said "Stay safe, take the bitumen. Even the Ranger won't use that road".

I stopped at the intersection on the way out. Bitumen to the left, dirt to the right. With the words "Even the Ranger won't use that road" ringing in my ears, I turned right. It was about 50 km shorter, so it made me.

Andrew, where were you when I needed your sensible head to guide me?

It doesn't look bad in the photos, but this was the worst dirt road I've ever ridden on, and I'm including roads in Albania, Morocco, Montenegro, and the like. It was bloody terrible. The corrugations were impossible to time right to get a smooth ride, and the smooth bits of the road were deep gravel. It was also littered with large pot holes and washaways. Not really much fun on a big adventure tourer.

The poor old bike was rattling and shaking like nothing else. I was sure things were going to break, crack, or fall off, including me. I was wondering how much a new screen would cost because it was flexing back and forth nearly ten centimetres. It had to give way soon.

At the end of my little short cut, the bike was one hundred percent fine. I however was spent.

(UPDATE 28/8/16. 

I've just come home from a weekend ride and found a few little problems with the bike. The Sat Nav mounting bracket has fallen to bits, and one of the screen mounting bolts has fallen out. Both of these failures would be a direct result of this dirt road ride. Other than that the bike is 100%.)  

We had just scratched the surface of Karijini, and are thinking about coming back to spend some time here. We'll probably fly in and hire a four wheel drive so was can access everything the park has to offer. I'd love to stay at the Eco Resort, but it's a bit out of my budget.

Back on that lovely, smooth bitumen I picked up the pace and had a (very) quick blast back into Tom Price. It was a lot of fun, and the Guzzi was much happier. That V Twin sings when it's happy.

I made a small detour to the liquor store and picked up a bottle of medicinal Jameson's Irish Whiskey. I reckon I deserved a drink after today's efforts.

While I was there I met a few of the locals. These statues were really detailed and I'd love a few in my backyard.

After a visit to the local pub for a feed we hit the hay, but tonight with extra blankets and sleeping bags for warmth. It gets cold in these parts at night.

Newman is our target tomorrow, and easy 300 km ride.

What will we find there?

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